Hotels and Restaurants

Hotels and Restaurants Until early 20th century, Bengali society was not used to hotels and restaurants when out of home. Providing the guests with food and lodging at private home was the socially approved custom until the early 20th century. The growth of urbanisation, education, trade and commerce, games and sports led to the rise of hotels and restaurants in cities for the travelers. Traditionally, Bangladesh people had a cultural obligation to accommodate and entertain guests, if solicited. Denial of free hospitality to a traveling seeker was out of social practice. In the eyes of Hindus, guests were treated as gods in disguise. For Muslims it was an act of piety to accommodate and entertain traveling guests. On the highways, sarais or rest house were built at government initiatives for the overnight sojourns of traveling merchants and traders. Besides travelers could always find shelter and food at monasteries, temples, and mosques.

Ruposhi Bangla Hotel, Dhaka ( former Dhaka Sheraton Hotel)

During the British period, officials and their guests found accommodation and food at dak bungalows or circuit houses. In the 1950s and 1960s, a large number of well-appointed rest houses were built by the Water and Power Development Authority at the district level for the convenience of its travelling officials and foreign experts associated with its projects. Soon after, the government built rest houses at district headquarters for accommodation of junior officials and non-officials. After the 1960s, Parjatan Corporation, charged with promoting tourism, started building hotels and motels around the country's interesting spots with facilities suitable for tourists from home and abroad. The largest complexes were built in dhaka and chittagong, and at cox's bazar sea beach. These hotels and motels provide comfortable accommodation, decent local, oriental, and continental foods, and facilities for guided tours, car rentals, as well as games and sports. This way many little-known places of historic, cultural, ethnic and natural interest were made popular.

From the 1950s, modest private hotels and restaurants were built in cities and towns to cater to the needs of people out of home. The first large hotel to offer decent accommodation and food was Shahbagh in Dhaka. The government built it in the 1950s mainly to receive foreign delegations and hold large receptions, lunches and dinners. In the 1960s, the government built the 300-room Intercontinental Hotel in collaboration with foreign investors. The Intercontinental, later known as Dhaka Sheraton, now as Rupashi Bangla accommodated large foreign delegations and airline guests, and for hosting national and international conferences. Soon after, a 3-star private hotel, Purbani, was built (1968) in the downtown area to offer rooms and food to guests at reasonable prices.

The next major hotel to be built was the 5-star 300-room Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel. This was a government project implemented with Japanese assistance and is still the premier hotel for overseas visitors and airline guests. Both Sheraton and Sonargaon greatly facilitated visits of foreign investors and businessmen and offer excellent oriental and western food and bar services to their guests. The Hotel Westin Dhaka is a private five-star hotel (2009) sector hotel Quite a number of fine hotels in the private sector were also built in Chittagong. Known as Hotel Agrabad (1970), it offers good accommodation and food at reasonable prices to national and overseas guests. Three other smaller private hotels, Sundarban, Zakaria, and Rajmoni Ishakhan, were built in Dhaka to provide accommodation and food at reasonable prices.

During the three decades after the liberation of the country in 1971, there has been a big spurt in building hotels and restaurants all over the country in the private sector to meet the demand of people moving around for business, pleasure and work. Many of these hotels and restaurants offer fairly good accommodation and food at budget prices. In Dhaka's posh areas of Gulshan, Baridhara, Banani, Dhanmandi and Uttara, dozens of guesthouses have sprung up to offer western style bed-and-breakfast at reasonable rates. These are becoming increasingly popular. Many foreign investors and buyers of garments and frozen fish prefer to live in these guesthouses.

There are now hundreds of restaurants all over the metropolitan cities of Dhaka and Chittagong offering local, oriental, Indian and western foods. Some exclusive restaurants in Dhaka offer Korean, Thai, and Japanese food. Some good hotels and restaurants have lately been built in khulna. Several exclusive private clubs in Dhaka and Chittagong provide accommodation, food and bar services to their members and guests. The number of fast food restaurants is also growing in the cities, mainly to cater to the growing demand for sandwiches, kabab, hot dogs, burgers, fried chicken and aerated cold drinks. [Enamul Haq]